Winter Food Available To The Wild Turkey In A Hardwood Forest

An analysis was made of 1132.5 square feet of forest litter collected during the late winter in a bottomland hardwood forest area of the Mississippi Delta. A seed cleaner and a Trier sampler were used to separate food items from litter trash and derive a quantitative estimate. Food available to the turkey averaged 135 Ibs. per acre. Sugarberry seeds made up one-half of the entire amount. The next two most abundant items found were insect galls, 22.5 Ibs., and grape, 19.6 Ibs. The food items most commonly found in analysis of wild turkey crops and droppings were those usually appearing in the least quantity in the litter analysis. Pecan, animal matter, spice bush, and wild grape were the food items most frequently eaten by the wild turkey. The main purpose of this study was to determine the quantity of food available for the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) prior to the nesting season in a bottomland hardwood area in the Mississippi Delta. A recent study at Mississippi State University (Gardner, 1966) showed that food items utilized by the wild turkeys prior to the nesting season will significantly influence egg production even though the weights of the tested birds are not significantly influenced. Many wild turkey food habitat studies have been reported, but no published research has been found concerning the quantity and availability of food for the wild turkey during the critical pre-nesting period in the Southeastern United States. As another part of this study we investigated the choice of food items made by the turkey in the Delta area.

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